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Workers win reinstatement in victory over union-busting operation in Myanmar

TRADE unions in Myanmar celebrated victory after winning the reinstatement of more than 100 garment workers and their representatives yesterday, bringing an end to two long-running disputes.

The Industrial Workers Federation of Myanamar  settled two mass-dismissal cases in the Yangon region after months of campaigning.

Kamine Manufacturing sacked 57 of its staff in March, including all seven members of the trade union’s executive committee, in what was seen as a union-busting operation.

The company denied this and insisted that the dismissals were related to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the union hit out after new, non-unionised workers were employed immediately after the lay-offs.

The company has previously targeted union members, offering bribes and even threatening to evict them from the company hostel if they did not leave the union.

Talks led to the reinstatement of all 57 workers and the trade-union representatives, with both parties agreeing to abide by the freedom of association (FoA) guidelines that protect employees from being penalised or discriminated against based on their trade-union membership or activities.

Union president Khaing Zar voiced hope that suppliers would in future enter “social dialogue” with trade unions before going ahead with any redundancy plans instead of acting unilaterally.

The union also won the reinstatement of 111 workers with full compensation after they were laid off in March and April during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Christina Hajagos-Clausen, spokeswoman for European labour federation IndustriALL, welcomed the two victories and said that she hoped they had brought an end to union-busting in the garment industry.

“I am glad to see that the FoA guidelines have become a standard reference and that the dispute-resolution mechanism is functioning,” she said.

“IndustriALL will continue to promote awareness on FoA guidelines among garment suppliers associated with ACT brands.”

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